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MLB • Friday Service Plays • 4/8/16

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    Five to Follow MLB Betting: Friday, April 8, 2016, Opening Line Report
    by Alan Matthews

    The most interesting game on Friday’s schedule? Believe it or not, It’s probably Colorado’s home opener against San Diego. Yes, those two teams are likely to finish in the bottom two spots of the NL West, but they have been big stories early this season. That’s because the Padres were just shut out three straight games by the Dodgers. No team had ever gone scoreless over the first 27 innings of a season. The Padres had all of 11 hits with 28 strikeouts. Just an awful lineup. Meanwhile, Rockies rookie shortstop Trevor Story is the first player since 1900 to homer in each of his first three big-league games. He has four of them total, hitting two off Diamondbacks ace Zack Greinke on Monday. Tuesday it was off Shelby Miller and Wednesday off Patrick Corbin — so three pretty darn good pitchers.

    Yankees at Tigers (-115, 8)

    It’s Detroit’s home opener with a 1:10 p.m. ET start and the Tigers unveil their big offseason pitching acquisition in former Washington Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann. He was one of the most consistent pitchers in the National League the past four seasons, making at least 32 starts in each and with an ERA no worse than 3.66. Really the only worry about the guy was he already had Tommy John surgery, but it was back in 2009 and it certainly hasn’t seemed to affect him since. Zimmermann did beat the Yankees last season while with Washington, allowing two runs in seven innings. Didi Gregorius is 3-for-8 with a homer off him. It’s Luis Severino for New York. He’s the team’s top pitching prospect and was 5-3 with a 2.89 ERA in 11 late-season starts in 2015. He didn’t face the Tigers. They will get DH Victor Martinez back in the lineup here as he came off the bench in the two interleague games in Miami to start the week. And Martinez hit a pinch-hit homer in both games. Martinez is the first player since 1914 with a pinch-hit dinger in each of his team’s first two games of a season.

    Key trends:
    The Yankees are 0-4 in their past four road games. They are 1-5 in their past six series openers. The Tigers are 5-2 in their past seven after an off day. New York is 5-1 in the past six meetings. The “over/under” has gone under in four of the past five in Motown.

    Early lean:
    Tigers and under.

    Phillies at Mets (-215, 7.5)

    Shown on the MLB Network. It’s New York’s home opener with another 1:10 p.m. ET first pitch. The Mets will raise/post/whatever their National League pennant banner before the game. I was reading somewhere this is the second-most expensive Opening Day ticket in the majors. New York’s starter is expected to be Jacob deGrom, but his wife is expecting any day now and he will leave for Florida if it happens. DeGrom was 14-8 with a 2.54 ERA last year and great in three starts in the NL playoffs (not so good in his one World Series start). DeGrom was 1-0 with a 4.41 ERA in three starts vs. the Phillies last year. It’s not clear who would start if deGrom is called away. It’s likely to be either lefty Steven Matz or 90-year-old Bartolo Colon. The Phillies counter with Jerad Eickhoff. He was part of the haul acquired in the Cole Hamels trade from Texas last July and was 3-3 with a 2.65 ERA in eight starts with the Phillies as a rookie. He faced the Mets three times and was 1-2 with a 2.70 ERA. Michael Conforto was 4-for-8 with a homer off him.

    Key trends:
    The Phillies are 4-13 in their past 17 series openers. The Mets are 5-0 in their past five on Friday. New York is 1-7 in its past eight vs. the NL East. The under is 5-1 in deGrom’s past six at home. The Phillies are 3-13 in their past 16 at the Mets.

    Early lean:
    Mets on runline if deGrom starts and under regardless.

    Padres at Rockies (-145, 11)

    Another matinee at 4:10 p.m. ET. By the way, the three Dodgers starting pitchers in that Padres series combined to go 2-for-9 (.222) with a homer at the plate. San Diego’s lineup hit a combined .120 and obviously without an RBI. The Padres were outscored a combined 25-0. They face Rockies right-hander Jordan Lyles here. He was limited to only 10 starts last season due to injury and was 2-5 with a 5.14 ERA. One of his best starts of the year was against San Diego, allowing one run in 6.2 innings. Matt Kemp is 3-for-8 with a homer off him. San Diego goes with Colin Rea. Last year as a rookie, he was 2-2 with a 4.26 ERA in 31.2 innings. His best start was his last, Sept. 8 vs. Colorado when he shut the Rockies out on two hits over seven innings. Rea did pitch one inning of relief against the Dodgers on Monday and allowed a run.

    Key trends:
    The Padres are 1-5 in their past six road games. The Rockies are 8-3 in their past 11 series openers. But Colorado has dropped five straight Lyles series openers. The over is 5-1 in the past six meetings in Colorado.

    Early lean:
    Rockies and under — highest total of early season and I’m not sure Padres can still score much.

    Rays at Orioles (+110, 8)

    Tampa goes with ace Chris Archer in this series opener. He was pretty strong in Sunday’s season opener against the Blue Jays, allowing two earned runs and five hits in five innings and striking out a whopping 12 in a loss. Archer was already at 107 pitches through five and thus pulled. He became the first pitcher to whiff 12 batters on Opening Day since Felix Hernandez accomplished the feat in 2007. Chris Davis is 4-for-13 off Archer with a homer and five RBIs. Baltimore originally had scheduled Mike Wright here but has shuffled things up and will go with ace Chris Tillman. He pitched Opening Day against Minnesota and looked great early, shutting out the Twins over two innings and striking out five. However, a long rain delay then ended his night. The Orioles wanted to have their best guy against Archer instead of the fairly inexperienced Wright. Tillman wasn’t great vs. Tampa last year, though, going 1-3 with a 4.79 ERA in six starts. Evan Longoria is a .327 hitter off him with six homers in 49 at-bats.

    Key trends:
    The Rays are 3-7 in Archer’s past 10 on the road. The Orioles are 4-1 in Tillman’s past five starts. The O’s are 1-4 in Tillman’s past five vs. Tampa. The under is 8-0 in his past eight series openers.

    Early lean:
    Rays and under.

    Rangers at Angels (-125, 8.5)

    I’m not a fan of either Texas or the LA Angels, but I’ll be rooting personally for Rangers starter A.J. Griffin here. He was very good as a rookie in 2012 with Oakland and then went 14-10 with a 3.83 ERA in 2013 in 32 starts with the A’s. He looked like a future star. But Griffin hasn’t pitched in the majors since then due to Tommy John surgery in 2014 and a major shoulder injury last year. He was signed to a minor-league deal by Texas in December and has won the No. 5 spot in the rotation for now. Good for him. The Halos go with Matt Shoemaker. He was great in 2014, going 16-4 with a 3.04 ERA and finishing second in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. Last year, he was just 7-10 with a 4.46 ERA. He allowed three runs in 6.1 innings in his lone start vs. Texas. Shin-Soo Choo is 1-for-9 with five strikeouts off him but that hit was a homer. Shoemaker was rocked this spring so he might not be long for the rotation.

    Key trends:
    The Angels are 7-1 in their past eight in Game 2 of a series. They are 2-9 in Shoemaker’s past 11 at home. L.A. is 4-0 in his past four at home vs. Texas. The over is 7-3-2 in Shoemaker’s past 12 vs. the AL West.

    Early lean:
    Rangers and over.


    NEWSLETTER MLB Baseball Prediction From Allen Eastman

    Take Kansas City (-140) over Minnesota (8 p.m., Friday, April 8)
    I like Kansas City to pick up a win here on Friday night. They will be going with young Yordano Ventura in this one. People thought he wasn’t very good last year. But he still won 13 games and had a higher strikeout-to-walk ratio than his breakout 2014. He is still just 25 years old and entering his prime. I think he’ll be great to start off the season, and he has always been much better at home. The Twins are going with Tommy Milone. But Kansas City was one of the best lineups in baseball against left-handed pitching the last to years. I think the Royals are still one of the best teams in baseball, and they should prove it again this week by pounding a division rival.


    Preview: Yankees at Tigers

    GAME: New York Yankees (2-1) at Detroit Tigers (2-0)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, April 08 – 1:10 PM EST
    WHERE: Comerica Park, Detroit, Michigan

    The return of a familiar face and a new addition have provided plenty of thump to the lineup for the New York Yankees, who venture onto the road for a three-game series against the Detroit Tigers starting Friday afternoon. Mark Teixeira and Starlin Castro are off to torrid starts for New York, which scored 27 runs in taking two of three from the Houston Astros.

    Teixeira belted 31 homers in 111 games in 2015 before a broken bone in his leg ended his season, but he is showing no rust with a pair of three-run blasts in back-to-back games, including a tiebreaking shot in Thursday’s 8-5 win. “When we don’t have him, we miss him,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi told reporters of Teixeira. “We’re glad to have him back.” New York is also thrilled with the acquisition of Castro, who went 7-for-12 with two homers, two doubles and eight RBIs against Houston. The Tigers swept a two-game set at the Miami Marlins and will send Jordan Zimmermann, a pricey free-agent signing, to the mound in the home opener.

    TV: 1:10 p.m. ET, YES (New York), FSN Detroit

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Yankees RH Luis Severino (2015: 5-3, 2.89 ERA) vs. Tigers RH Jordan Zimmermann (2015: 13-10, 3.66)

    Severino did not receive a promotion to the majors until early August in 2015 but quickly showed he was not overmatched at the major-league level, permitting three earned runs or fewer in 10 of his 11 starts. The 22-year-old Dominican did have some control issues at times, walking at least three batters in five straight turns, but he only allowed more than six hits in two outings. He was 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA in six road starts.

    The Tigers signed Zimmermann to a five-year deal worth a reported $110 million after he won 58 games over the previous for years with the Washington Nationals, including a 19-9 campaign in 2013. Zimmermann struggled with the long ball last season, allowing a career-high 24 homers, but he walked only 39 batters in 201 2/3 innings. Zimmermann has limited Castro to five hits and zero homers in 25 at-bats.


    1. Yankees CF Jacoby Ellsbury is a career .314 hitter versus Detroit.

    2. Tigers 2B Ian Kinsler went 5-for-11 with three runs scored, a homer and four RBIs in Miami.

    3. New York won the season series 5-2 in 2015 while outscoring Detroit 46-26.

    PREDICTION: Yankees 4, Tigers 3


    Preview: Phillies at Mets

    GAME: Philadelphia Phillies (0-3) at New York Mets (1-1)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, April 08 – 1:10 PM EST
    WHERE: Citi Field, New York City, New York

    The New York Mets return home Friday for the first time since losing Game 5 of the World Series, although their opponent hardly resembles the 2015 Kansas City Royals. The Mets will raise their National League championship banner and then kick off their home slate with the first of three games against the Philadelphia Phillies, who are 0-3 for the first time in nine years.

    New York began its season by splitting two games at Kansas City, including a 2-0 victory in Tuesday’s contest behind Noah Syndergaard’s six dominant innings. Jacob deGrom will look to deliver a similar performance Friday against a team that hit him well in 2015. The Phillies batted .313 in three games against deGrom, although they ultimately lost all three of those games as part of a 5-14 record against their rival to the north. Philadelphia’s bullpen blew its first two contests against Cincinnati this week before the entire pitching staff was roughed up in Thursday’s 10-6 defeat.

    TV: 1:10 p.m. ET, MLB Network, CSN Philadelphia, SNY (New York)

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Phillies RP Jerad Eickhoff (2015: 3-3, 2.65 ERA) vs. Mets RH Jacob deGrom (2015: 14-8, 2.54)

    Eickhoff made eight starts for Philadelphia in 2015 after coming over in the trade that sent Cole Hamels to Texas, including three starts against the Mets. He went 1-2 with a 2.70 ERA in those outings but really struggled against Michael Conforto (4-for-8 with a home run). This spring, the 25-year-old gave up eight runs and 15 hits (including four home runs) over nine innings.

    After winning National League Rookie of the Year in 2014 and becoming an All-Star in 2015, deGrom is a trendy Cy Young Award pick this year. That said, the 27-year-old was scratched from one spring training start with a stiff back and endured some disappointing velocity last month as part of a spring in which he logged a 1.62 ERA in four starts. Among deGrom’s notable splits from a season ago are his stellar home ERA (1.99) and his overall opponents’ batting average against righties (.181).


    1. With his first child due any day, deGrom has said he will fly to Florida if his wife goes into labor.

    2. Mets OF Curtis Granderson has already struck out four times in eight at-bats this year.

    3. Five different Phillies homered in the opening series, as the long ball accounted for nine of the team’s 10 runs against Cincinnati.

    PREDICTION: Phillies 2, Mets 1


    Preview: Padres at Rockies

    GAME: San Diego Padres (0-3) at Colorado Rockies (2-1)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, April 08 – 4:10 PM EST
    WHERE: Coors Field, Denver, Colorado

    The biggest story – literally and figuratively – in the early going of the 2016 Major League Baseball season is Colorado’s Trevor Story, who became the first player in modern history (since 1900) to homer in his first three games. The rookie shortstop looks to continue the storybook start to his career Friday when the Rockies host the San Diego Padres, who have yet to score this season while allowing 25 runs during a three-game sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    “It is quite a Story. Pun intended,” Colorado manager Walt Weiss told reporters about the 23-year-old Texan, who hit two home runs opening day and has yet to record a single, double or triple. ”I never understood why people always say ‘No pun intended.’ Every single one is always intended.” The Rockies smashed 10 homers in taking two of three in Arizona – tying a club record for most long balls in a three-game road series – and scored 20 runs after leading the National League with 737 last season. The Padres hope a trip to hitter friendly Coors Field wakes up their bats after they mustered 11 hits in the Los Angeles series – one for extra bases – en route to becoming the first team in history to be shut out in its first three games. Colorado right-hander Jordan Lyles begins what he hopes is an injury-free season and opposes rookie Colin Rea, who added 20 pounds of muscle in the offseason to increase his weight to a listed 225 on his 6-foot-5 frame.

    TV: 4:10 p.m. ET, FSN San Diego, ROOT (Colorado)

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Padres RH Colin Rea (0-0, 9.00 ERA) vs. Rockies RH Jordan Lyles (2015: 2-5, 5.14)

    Rea was 2-2 with a 4.26 ERA in six starts in 2015, including a no-decision in San Diego’s 2-1 victory over Colorado on Sept. 8 when he allowed two hits in seven shutout innings of his final turn of the season. The 25-year-old Iowa native allowed one run in an inning of relief in the Padres’ 15-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday. Rea pitched a team-high 22 innings in the spring, allowing 14 runs, 25 hits and walking 13 while striking out 17 over six starts.

    Lyles was limited to a combined 32 starts the past two seasons – 10 in 2015 – because of a broken left hand (2014) and right big toe surgery (2015), and had a rough spring as he allowed 15 runs and 23 hits in 19 innings covering eight games (five starts). “(Spring training) doesn’t give anyone the excuse to go give up runs, but I’m healthy right now. That’s the best thing,” the 25-year-old South Carolinian told reporters. “But, for me, I’ve got to do better. …” Lyles is 2-3 with a 5.40 ERA in seven starts versus San Diego, including a 2-1 victory last season, and is 5-2 with a 3.48 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 12 career April turns.


    1. Rockies 3B Nolan Arenado, who led the majors with 130 RBIs last season and the NL with 42 home runs, was 2-for-13 with a homer in the Arizona series.

    2. Newly acquired SS Alexei Ramirez is 0-for-10 in his first three games with the Padres.

    3. San Diego won the 2015 season series 12-7, splitting 10 meetings at Coors Field.

    PREDICTION: Rockies 6, Padres 0


    Preview: Indians at White Sox

    GAME: Cleveland Indians (1-1) at Chicago White Sox (3-1)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, April 08 – 4:10 PM EST
    WHERE: U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago, Illinois

    Off to their best start since winning the World Series in 2005, the Chicago White Sox will play their home opener against the Cleveland Indians on Friday afternoon in the first of a three-game set between AL Central Division rivals. Chicago continued its impressive start with a 6-1 victory over Oakland on Thursday to take three of four in the series.

    Adam Eaton is providing quite the spark at the top of the lineup for the White Sox by going 9-for-16 and collecting multiple hits in each of the four games. Jose Abreu also has hit safely in all four games and clubbed his first homer while driving in three runs Thursday. The finale of Cleveland’s three-game series at Boston was postponed on Thursday, with a likely makeup date set for Aug. 15. After a pair of shaky starts from Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, the Indians send Danny Salazar to the mound to oppose veteran left-hander John Danks.

    TV: 4:10 p.m. ET, STO (Cleveland), CSN Chicago

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Indians RH Danny Salazar (2015: 14-10, 3.45 ERA) vs. White Sox LH John Danks (2015: 7-15, 4.71)

    Salazar went through his first full season as a major-league starter in 2015 and established himself as one of the better young arms in the game. The 26-year-old Dominican notched 195 strikeouts in 185 innings and limited opponents to a .226 batting average. Although he split two decisions versus the White Sox in 2015, Salazar struck out 16 batters and permitted only a pair of runs in 12 2/3 innings.

    Danks set a career high in losses in 2005 — his seventh season with double-digit defeats — while his unsightly ERA actually was his lowest over the past four years. Cleveland contributed to those ugly stats for Danks, who was 0-3 with a 6.49 ERA in four starts against the Indians while surrendering five home runs in 21 innings. That pushed his careeer numbers versus Cleveland to 5-14 with a 5.29 ERA.


    1. Eaton has a 13-game hitting streak dating to last year and has reached base safely in 26 games in a row.

    2. Indians OF Michael Brantley will work out with Triple-A Columbus over the weekend while rehabbing from shoulder surgery.

    3. Cleveland won 10 of 19 games against Chicago in 2015.

    PREDICTION: Indians 6, White Sox 4


    Preview: Rays at Orioles

    GAME: Tampa Bay Rays (2-2) at Baltimore Orioles (3-0)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, April 08 – 7:05 PM EST
    WHERE: Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland

    Steven Souza Jr. showed his potential at times, but struggled with injuries and making consistent contact in his first season with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2015. The 26-year-old outfielder turned the page with three homers in four outings to start 2016 and looks to continue his progress when the Rays visit the unbeaten Baltimore Orioles on Friday to start a three-game series.

    Souza, who batted .225 with 16 homers and 144 strikeouts in 110 games last year, homered twice Wednesday in a 5-3 victory and went 6-for-15 in the series as the Rays earned a split of a four-game set against Toronto. “I’m just staying within myself,” Souza told reporters, “letting the ball take its course.” The Orioles will try to cool off Souza after sweeping three games from the Minnesota Twins to open the campaign. Manny Machado and rookie outfielder Joey Rickard have hit safely in every game and each belted a homer in the 4-2 victory over the Twins on Thursday.

    TV: 7:05 p.m. ET, FSN Sun (Tampa Bay), MASN (Baltimore)

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Rays RH Chris Archer (0-1, 3.60 ERA) vs. Orioles RH Chris Tillman (0-0, 0.00)

    Archer was forced to throw 34 pitches in the first inning of the season opener Sunday and battled back to limit Toronto to two earned runs over five innings while striking out 12. The 27-year-old, who made his first All-Star team a year ago, was 9-5 with a 3.35 ERA on the road in 2015. Machado is 8-for-19 and Chris Davis 4-for-13 with a homer versus Archer, who was 1-2 with a 3.04 ERA against Baltimore in four starts last year.

    Tillman was moved up to the opener of the series after his first start on Monday was reduced to two innings by a weather delay. The 27-year-old California native struck out five and did not surrender a hit against Minnesota while throwing 22 pitches after his ERA dipped to 4.99 last year – way up from his 3.34 mark in 2014. Evan Longoria is 16-for-49 with six homers against Tillman, who is 5-9 with a 4.30 ERA in 20 career outings versus the Rays.


    1. Baltimore All-Star CF Adam Jones missed Thursday’s game with soreness in the rib area and is considered day-to-day.

    2. Tampa Bay’s bullpen staff has allowed just two earned runs in 13 2/3 innings with two wins and 13 strikeouts in the first four games.

    3. Davis has belted 22 homers and knocked in 57 runs in 79 career games against the Rays.

    PREDICTION: Rays 5, Orioles 2


    Preview: Red Sox at Blue Jays

    GAME: Boston Red Sox (1-1) at Toronto Blue Jays (2-2)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, April 08 – 7:07 PM EST
    WHERE: Rogers Centre, Toronto, Ontario

    At least the Boston Red Sox won’t have to worry about the elements when they kick off a three-game series at the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday. The Red Sox had their season opener pushed back a day due to rain and had the series finale wiped out entirely at Cleveland to begin the campaign.

    The second rainout forced a shuffling of the rotation, and new ace David Price was pushed back to the home opener instead of making a start this weekend at Toronto, where he spent the last final months of last season while helping the Blue Jays to the postseason. The Blue Jays had no problem sneaking in a four-game set indoors at Tampa Bay to begin the campaign but dropped the last two games after taking the first two. Toronto third baseman and reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson left the series finale early on Wednesday with tightness in his calf but is feeling better and has a chance to return to the lineup on Friday. The Red Sox split their two games with the Indians and got a home run in each contest from 40-year-old slugger David Ortiz.

    TV: 7:07 p.m. ET, MLB Network, NESN (Boston), Sportsnet (Toronto)

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Red Sox RH Joe Kelly (2015: 10-6, 4.82 ERA) vs. Blue Jays RH Marcus Stroman (1-0, 3.38)

    Kelly looked ticketed for the bullpen after a rough first half of 2015 and an injury that robbed him of a month. The 27-year-old earned himself another look when he returned and ripped off eight wins in as many starts bridging August and September and solidified his spot with a strong spring. The last of those eight wins came against Toronto on Sept. 9, when Kelly scattered six hits and one run over 5 2/3 innings while striking out five.

    Stroman was impressive enough down the stretch last season to earn ace status on the staff and cruised through eight innings while allowing one run against the Rays on opening day. The 24-year-old went out for the ninth and ran into some trouble but eventually earned the win when closer Roberto Osuna came on for the final three outs. Stroman has dominated Boston in his brief career, going 4-0 in as many starts with a 1.26 ERA.


    1. Donaldson hit safely in each of the first four games and homered twice.

    2. Red Sox RHP Carson Smith (forearm) threw from 90 feet and is scheduled to throw in the bullpen over the weekend.

    3. Boston took 10 of the 19 meetings between the division rivals last season.

    PREDICTION: Blue Jays 6, Red Sox 1


    Preview: Pirates at Reds

    GAME: Pittsburgh Pirates (3-0) at Cincinnati Reds (3-0)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, April 08 – 7:10 PM EST
    WHERE: Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, Ohio

    The 2016 season could not have started any better for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds, who begin a three-game series Friday. Pittsburgh hits the road for the first time this season after sweeping three contests from St. Louis while Cincinnati did the same to Philadelphia as Jay Bruce did most of the damage with two home runs and a career high-tying five RBIs in Thursday’s 10-6 victory at Great American Ball Park.

    “He put a lot of work in to close some holes in his swing,” Reds manager Bryan Price told reporters about Bruce in spring training. “I know he was disappointed in his last two seasons.” The Pirates used the same lineup in all three games with Andrew McCutchen – batting second for the first time since 2010 – going 5-for-11 with two runs scored. Pittsburgh also received plenty of production from Gregory Polanco, who went 3-for-7 with three RBIs, four runs and five walks versus the Cardinals after agreeing to a five-year contract extension worth $35 million earlier this week. The Pirates’ Francisco Liriano turned in a dominating performance against St. Louis opening day and opposes Alfredo Simon, who returned to Cincinnati by signing a one-year contract worth $2 million on March 17.

    TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, ROOT (Pittsburgh), FSN Ohio (Cincinnati)

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Pirates LH Francisco Liriano (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Reds RH Alfredo Simon (2015: 13-12, 5.05)

    Liriano improved to 7-18 with a 5.29 ERA in 39 April appearances (31 starts) after allowing three hits and five walks while striking out 10 in six scoreless innings and contributing an RBI in Pittsburgh’s 4-1 victory Sunday. The 32-year-old Dominican went 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in three starts against Cincinnati last season, improving to 1-5, 3.86 in 12 turns. Liriano fares well against Joey Votto (5-for-24, home run, four walks, seven strikeouts).

    Simon, who pitched for Detroit in 2015, made 99 appearances out of the bullpen in his first two seasons with the Reds before becoming a full-time starter in 2014, going 15-10 with a 3.44 ERA. The 34-year-old Dominican squeezed in three spring training starts, yielding five runs, five hits and five walks while striking out nine in 11 2/3 innings. Simon, who made 63 starts in the last two years, is 4-5, 3.60 in 20 games (six starts) versus the Pirates and handles McCutchen (6-for-25, home run, five walks, six strikeouts) and Josh Harrison (5-for-20, four strikeouts) well.


    1. Cincinnati 2B Brandon Phillips missed the last two games because of a stomach virus.

    2. Reds SS Eugenio Suarez, who hit 13 of his 19 career home runs last season, has two in 2016 after belting his first career grand slam Thursday.

    3. The Reds won the 2015 season series 11-8 despite finishing 34 games behind the Pirates.

    PREDICTION: Pirates 3, Reds 2


    Preview: Cardinals at Braves

    GAME: St. Louis Cardinals (0-3) at Atlanta Braves (0-2)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, April 08 – 7:35 PM EST
    WHERE: Turner Field, Atlanta, Georgia

    The St. Louis Cardinals won 100 games while finishing first in baseball’s most competitive division last season, but are off to their worst start in nine years after a season-opening three-game sweep at Pittsburgh. The Cardinals look to get on track Friday as they open a weekend set at the Atlanta Braves, who also are winless after dropping two games to the Washington Nationals to begin their 2016 campaign.

    Nothing went right in Pittsburgh for St. Louis, which struck out 37 times in three games while the starting rotation surrendered 23 hits in 14 2/3 innings and posted a 6.75 ERA. “We’ve got some work to do to get where we want to be,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny told reporters after Wednesday’s 5-1 loss. The Braves are 0-2 after being swept by the Nationals and their defense proved costly in both defeats, as catcher A.J. Pierzynski could not corral a potential game-ending throw to the plate Monday and missed a throw Wednesday that allowed Washington to score the tying run en route to a 3-1 victory. “Every time we made a mistake, they scored a crooked number,” Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez told the media.

    TV: 7:35 p.m. ET, FSN Midwest (St. Louis), FSN South (Atlanta)

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Cardinals LH Jaime Garcia (2015: 10-6, 2.43 ERA) vs. Braves RH Matt Wisler (2015: 8-8, 4.71)

    Garcia was outstanding after missing the first seven weeks of last season while recovering from 2014 nerve surgery, winning seven of his final nine decisions and going 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA in six August starts. He lost his only outing against Atlanta last season, giving up two runs on six hits in four innings on Oct. 2. Garcia struggled in spring training, allowing nine earned runs in 14 2/3 innings.

    Of all the heralded pitching prospects gathered by the Braves during their rebuild, Wisler has made the biggest impact to this point. The 23-year-old battled rookie inconsistency in 2015, winning five of his first six decisions after being promoted in June, then losing seven decisions in a row before ending with a flourish – giving up three runs over 22 2/3 innings in winning his final three starts. Wisler went 2-0 with a 1.15 ERA in two starts against the Cardinals in 2015.


    1. Atlanta 3B Adonis Garcia followed up his opening day homer Monday with three hits Wednesday.

    2. One lone bright spot for the Cardinals: Rookie OF Jeremy Hazelbaker homered in his first big-league start Wednesday, one night after recording a pinch-hit double.

    3. The Braves have nearly as many errors (three) as RBIs (four) through two games.

    PREDICTION: Cardinals 3, Braves 2


    Preview: Astros at Brewers

    GAME: Houston Astros (1-2) at Milwaukee Brewers (1-2)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, April 08 – 8:10 PM EST
    WHERE: Miller Park, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    The Houston Astros’ pitching staff endured a pair of difficult days in New York to cap their first series of the season. They hope a change of scenery spurs a turnaround when they begin a three-game interleague set at the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday.

    After taking the season-opener at Yankee Stadium 5-3 on Tuesday, Houston saw starters Collin McHugh and Mike Fiers – as well as several relievers – get knocked around in back-to-back losses, first a 16-6 rout and then Thursday’s 8-5 setback in which the Yankees slugged three home runs. The Brewers dropped their first two games versus San Francisco but avoided a sweep with a 4-3 triumph on Wednesday. Former Astro Chris Carter slugged a solo homer and lifted a tiebreaking sacrifice fly in the seventh inning to lead Milwaukee, which turns to another newcomer in right-hander Chase Anderson on Friday. Houston counters with Scott Feldman, who was limited to 18 starts last year due to knee and shoulder issues.

    TV: 8:10 p.m. ET, ROOT (Houston), FSN Wisconsin (Milwaukee)

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Astros RH Scott Feldman (2015: 5-5, 3.90 ERA) vs. Brewers RH Chase Anderson (2015: 6-6, 4.30)

    The 33-year-old Feldman carries a streak of three straight seasons with a sub-4.00 ERA into the final year of his contract with Houston. He owns a 2.12 mark in three career starts against Milwaukee, the last coming as a member of the Chicago Cubs in 2013. Carter has a home run and a single in two at-bats against Feldman and Ryan Braun is 2-for-6 with a home run and a double versus the Hawaii native.

    Anderson was 3-1 with a 2.84 ERA through his first 13 starts last year but then had some issues, particularly with the long ball. He served up nine home runs in a span of five starts before a trip to the disabled list in July and let up four more in his first three outings in September. The 28-year-old, who also gave up five homers and 27 hits overall in 14 2/3 rocky innings this spring, has never faced the Astros.


    1. Braun posted a .765 OPS at home last year, compared to .943 on the road.

    2. Astros rookie 1B Tyler White is 6-for-9 with a home run and four RBIs on the season.

    3. Milwaukee went 59-36 against Houston from 2007-12 before the Astros took two of three in the most recent series in 2013.

    PREDICTION: Astros 6, Brewers 4


    Preview: Twins at Royals

    GAME: Minnesota Twins (0-3) at Kansas City Royals (1-1)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, April 08 – 8:15 PM EST
    WHERE: Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri

    The Minnesota Twins continue their quest for that elusive first victory of the season when they visit the reigning world champion Kansas City Royals on Friday for the opener of their three-game series. Minnesota appeared ready to get into the win column Thursday as it scored in each of the first two innings at Baltimore before squandering the lead and suffering a three-game series-sweeping 4-2 loss to the Orioles.

    Eduardo Escobar has gotten off to a strong start at the plate for the Twins, going 5-for-12 with a pair of multi-hit performances over the first three games of the season. Kansas City began the defense of its title against the team it defeated to win it, splitting a two-game set with the New York Mets. The Royals have had two days to prepare for the American League Central-rival Twins after recording only three hits in a 2-0 loss to New York on Tuesday. Kansas City has yet to find its power stroke, as it is one of only two American League teams yet to hit a home run this year.

    TV: 8:15 p.m. ET, FSN North (Minnesota), FSN Kansas City

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Twins RH Ervin Santana (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Royals RH Yordano Ventura (2015: 13-8, 4.08)

    Santana will be making his second start of the season after his debut at Baltimore on Monday was limited to 39 pitches due to a rain delay. The 33-year-old Dominican was not exactly sharp in that outing, allowing two hits and issuing a pair of walks while striking out three in two innings. Santana, who went 9-10 for Kansas City in 2013, is 5-7 with one shutout and a 4.63 ERA in 16 career starts against his former team.

    Ventura is looking to erase the memory of a rough postseason during which he went 0-2 while surrendering 15 runs and 27 hits – five homers – in 21 innings over five starts. The 24-year-old Dominican finished the 2015 regular season strong, however, allowing one run and six hits in 14 frames over his last two outings – the final one being versus Minnesota on Oct. 3. With that victory, Ventura improved to 2-3 with a 3.90 ERA in five career starts against the Twins.


    1. The Royals recorded 12 hits in their first two games, with only two going for extra bases.

    2. Minnesota 1B Joe Mauer homered in his third game on Thursday, the earliest he’s gone deep since belting a shot in his second contest in 2010.

    3. Kansas City 3B Mike Moustakas has yet to register a hit (0-for-8) while LF Alex Gordon is 1-for-7 with four strikeouts.

    PREDICTION: Royals 5, Twins 2


    Preview: Cubs at Diamondbacks

    GAME: Chicago Cubs (3-0) at Arizona Diamondbacks (1-3)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, April 08 – 9:40 PM EST
    WHERE: Chase Field, Phoenix, Arizona

    The Chicago Cubs look to remain undefeated as they continue their four-game set against the host Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday. Anthony Rizzo fell a double shy of the cycle while recording six RBIs to raise his league-leading total to nine as Chicago pounded out 14 hits in a 14-6 triumph in Thursday’s series opener to improve to 3-0 on the year.

    The victory came at a price, however, as catcher-outfielder Kyle Schwarber was carted off the field after suffering a sprained left ankle in a collision with teammate Dexter Fowler while attempting to catch a fly ball. “We both went at it, and I stuck my glove up and I was pretty close,” Schwarber told reporters. “He dove for it, too. We were playing hard. I have no regrets about playing hard and getting hurt.” X-rays were negative, but Schwarber — who was on crutches after the game —will undergo an MRI on his left knee Friday. Jean Segura has been red-hot for the Diamondbacks, going 8-for-18 (.444) with three home runs — including a pair Thursday — after hitting .469 during spring training. Chicago’s Jason Hammel makes his 2016 debut after undergoing an offseason program geared toward better fitness and opposes Robbie Ray, who used a strong spring training to earn the No. 5 spot in the rotation.

    TV: 9:40 p.m. ET, WGN (Chicago), FSN Arizona

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Cubs RH Jason Hammel (2015: 10-7, 3.74 ERA) vs. Diamondbacks LH Robbie Ray (2015: 5-12, 3.52)

    Hammel was 5-4 with a 2.86 ERA in 17 starts prior to the All-Star break last season before going 5-3, 5.10 in 14 starts down the stretch as a midseason hamstring injury slowed him down. The 33-year-old native of South Carolina is 4-4 with a 3.61 ERA in 13 games (10 starts) versus Arizona. Hammel allowed 14 runs (12 earned) and 24 hits while striking out 24 in 23 1/3 innings during six starts in spring training.

    Ray made manager Chip Hale’s decision in naming a fifth starter easy after yielding seven runs, 15 hits and eight walks while striking out 20 in 18 innings covering five starts in the spring. “I think he had a leg up going in,” Hale told reporters about the 24-year-old Tennessee native. “He ended the year with us, so that gave him a little bit of a leg up, and he hasn’t let go of it.” The Diamondbacks scored two runs or fewer in 10 of Ray’s 23 starts in 2015, including a 2-0 loss in Chicago on Sept. 5 in which he struck out eight over five innings.


    1. Cubs SS Javier Baez, who is on the disabled list with a left thumb contusion, is not expected to be activated in time for the team’s home opener Monday after fouling a ball off his face in a rehab game earlier this week.

    2. Arizona LF David Peralta is 8-for-17 over the first four games of the season, with half of his hits going for extra bases.

    3. Chicago’s hitters have drawn a major league-high 17 walks while its pitchers have issued a league-low three.

    PREDICTION: Diamondbacks 6, Cubs 4


    Preview: Rangers at Angels

    GAME: Texas Rangers (1-3) at Los Angeles Angels (1-2)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, April 08 – 10:05 PM EST
    WHERE: Angel Stadium of Anaheim, Anaheim, California

    Matt Shoemaker has won each of his major-league starts against Texas and aims to improve to 5-0 when the Los Angeles Angels host the Rangers on Friday in the second contest of a four-game set. Shoemaker has a 2.39 ERA and 1.10 WHIP against Texas and picked up three of the four victories in 2014 when he won a career-best 16 games.

    Shoemaker will be aiming to pitch the Angels to their second straight win in the series after Los Angeles won the opener 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth as Albert Pujols short-hopped the wall in left-center field with a bases-loaded single. “Just get something to hit and try to put on one of my best swings,” Pujols told Fox Sports 1 of his approach. “I just thank God that I put my best swing of the night and it ended up winning the game.” The Angels were certainly relieved to pick up a victory after losing their first two games of the season to the Chicago Cubs by a combined 15-1 score. The Rangers will be aiming to halt a three-game skid that has seen them outscored 23-10.

    TV: 10:05 p.m. ET, FSN Southwest (Texas), FSN West (Los Angeles)

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Rangers RH A.J. Griffin (2015: NR) vs. Angels RH Matt Shoemaker (2015: 7-10, 4.46)

    Griffin hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2013 when he went 14-10 with Oakland as he underwent Tommy John elbow surgery in 2014 followed by a shoulder injury last season. “I’m just going to go out there and get everyone out and work well with whoever is catching,” Griffin told reporters Thursday after learning he would get Friday’s start. “I’m thankful that the Rangers gave me an opportunity to come and pitch.” Griffin is 2-2 with a 2.81 ERA and .197 average against in five career starts against the Angels.

    Shoemaker is looking to rebound from a shaky campaign last season after he compiled a 3.04 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in 2014. He struggled through much of spring training and came dangerously close to missing out on the final rotation spot. Shoemaker served up 24 homers in 135 1/3 innings last season after giving up 14 in 136 innings in 2014.


    1. Rangers RHP Shawn Tolleson served up the decisive hit to Pujols and has allowed six hits and recorded three outs in three appearances.

    2. Pujols and CF Mike Trout each had two hits in the opener after being a combined 0-of-15 in the first two games of the series.

    3. Texas has allowed 10 homers in four games, including one to Angels 3B Yunel Escobar on Thursday.

    PREDICTION: Angels 7, Rangers 5


    Preview: Athletics at Mariners

    GAME: Oakland Athletics (1-3) at Seattle Mariners (2-1)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, April 08 – 10:10 PM EST
    WHERE: Safeco Field, Seattle, Washington

    Robinson Cano is hotter than lava to begin the season and looks to continue the torrid start when the Seattle Mariners host the Oakland Athletics in Friday’s opener of a three-game series. Cano has four homers over the first three games to become the first second baseman to homer in each of his team’s first three games since Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr in 1941.

    The Mariners are excited over Cano’s spectacular start as he experienced an extreme power outage in the first half of last season and didn’t hit his fourth homer until June 26. Cano underwent hernia surgery in the offseason and reported to spring training feeling much better than he did 12 months earlier. “He’s a special player, everybody knows that,” third baseman Kyle Seager said. “When you’re playing through injury and nobody knows about it, that’s tough. He’s good. But you could tell in the spring, you can tell in (batting practice), you can tell just the way he’s walking around and moving. He looks pretty good.” Oakland started the season with three losses in four games against the Chicago White Sox, batting just .212 with one homer in the series.

    TV: 10:10 p.m. ET, CSN California (Oakland), ROOT (Seattle)

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Athletics LH Eric Surkamp (2015: 0-0, 10.80 ERA) vs. Mariners RH Taijuan Walker (2015: 11-8, 4.56)

    Surkamp was recalled from Triple-A Nashville to make the start in place of Felix Doubront, who went on the disabled list with an elbow injury. The 28-year-old hasn’t started a major league game since July 23, 2013 for the San Francisco Giants and is aiming to make an impression on the Athletics, with whom he signed a minor-league contract in the offseason. “I’m excited,” Surkamp told reporters. “It’s a little bit different as opposed to my last two times getting called up, just being in camp with the guys all spring. I’m just a little more comfortable this time.”

    Walker, 23, made 29 starts as a rookie last season and the Mariners are expecting a jump in production and in handling the mental challenges of the game. “I went through a whole year in the bigs last year,” Walker told reporters. “I went through some ups and downs. I felt like I kind of matured on that part, where I can control my emotions a little more.” Walker is 0-1 with a 7.71 ERA in four career appearances (two starts) against Oakland – he gave up nine runs and nine hits in 3 1/3 innings against the Athletics in his first outing last season – and has yet to retire first baseman Mark Canha (3-for-3 with a homer).


    1. Cano batted .241 with one homer and 14 strikeouts in 79 at-bats against the Athletics last season when the Mariners went 13-6 against Oakland.

    2. Seattle clubbed nine homers and scored 21 runs while taking two of three from Texas to begin the season.

    3. Oakland LF Khris Davis went 2-for-12 with seven strikeouts in the four games against Chicago.

    PREDICTION: Mariners 5, Athletics 3

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